Most Improved Golden State Warriors Players This Season
Despite now being losers of their last two games, the Golden State Warriors’ season as a whole has been a resounding success—success that has come about, for the most part, as a result of dramatic improvement from many of the holdovers from last season.
Despite playing in the always-brutal Western Conference, the Warriors have hung around and now find themselves in sixth place in the conference and just two games behind the Portland Trail Blazers for the fifth seed in the playoffs.
If the Warriors are to close that gap, the players who have stepped up the most this season will need to continue to play at the new heights they’ve achieved.
Whether it be making the jump from star to superstar or merely making small improvements in multiple areas, many of the stars of this Warriors team have elevated their games this year. The result has been an increasingly cohesive team that looks to be rounding into form at the right time.
In the past, the Warriors would not have been able to overcome bumps in the road like this past week. The extra gear that these players have shown, however, ensures that they can put those losses behind and continue the push toward the playoffs that have been a result of their hard work throughout the season.
5. Klay Thompson
Slow and steady wins the race. That is the definition of the gradual improvement Klay Thompson has shown each season. While he hasn’t yet taken the leap that many expected this season, his importance to the spacing that the Warriors pride themselves on cannot be disputed.
Regardless of whether or not Thompson ever takes that supposed leap, his ever-improving shooting from the outside will ensure that he always has a place in the NBA.
After all, when you’ve made the second-most three-point shots in the league—behind who else: Stephen Curry—you’re in elite company. The fact that he’s made them at a .412 clip is truly something special.
While Thompson still has a ways to go before he unlocks his true potential, he’s shown subtle improvements in his game this season. His turnaround jumper to defeat the Indiana Pacers earlier in the season was a thing of beauty. It showed his recognition of matchup advantages and his ability to take advantage of them.
While his game will always revolve around the three-point line, small wrinkles such as this is what can one day elevate him to an All-Star-caliber player. The Warriors are a worthy contender for the championship this season, and Thompson is one of the biggest reasons why.
4. Steve Blake and Jordan Crawford
Obviously Steve Blake and Jordan Crawford are newer members of the Warriors and thus haven’t had a chance to truly improve their games as members of the team. This is more in reference to whom they are an improvement over.
The Warriors started the season with Toney Douglas and Kent Bazemore backing up Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, respectively. While the poor play of Douglas had a lot to do with some nagging injuries that just wouldn’t go away, the fact of the matter is that he just wasn’t a very good player. The same can be said of Bazemore.
Credit the Warriors for recognizing their bench deficiencies and swinging two fantastic trades. Blake offers the Warriors the clutch shooting and excellent ball-handling that Douglas couldn’t. Crawford is the dynamic scoring punch that coach Mark Jackson hoped Bazemore would become.
The Warriors don’t need these two to be anything more than they already are because they are already drastic improvements over the two guys whom they replaced. They have officially rounded out the Warriors rotation and made them a complete, deep team.
3. Stephen Curry
It’s hard to believe that Stephen Curry could get any better than he was last season. Well, believe it. Curry is no longer a mere star in this league. He’s evolved into the league’s next superstar, and he earned his first All-Star appearance in the process.
Curry’s stats are up all across the board, and he currently sports averages of 23.2 points, 8.6 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game. While his three-point percentage has fallen to a mere mortal .409, he’s still made the most shots from distance of anyone in the league.
He’s become a complete player this season and has helped guide the Warriors through the gauntlet that is the Western Conference.
Critics will always point to Curry’s dangerously high turnovers, 3.8 per game this season, and they are something that must be rectified. His late-game turnovers cost the Warriors against the Toronto Raptors earlier in the season and very nearly gave away the game against the Indiana Pacers.
He’s not a perfect player yet, but he’s shown he can carry his team. And that’s what the Warriors need to survive when the playoffs begin. The last area of improvement will be his sloppiness, but in terms of everything else, it’s undeniable that he’s made huge strides.
2. Andrew Bogut
All Andrew Bogut needed to do was stay healthy. While he’s missed a few games this season to injury, it’s been nowhere near the disastrous, injury-plagued year of last season.
Along with health have come improved numbers across the board. The Warriors have not needed him to be a scorer this season, but his points per game have crept up to 7.9 this year, regardless.
Even more importantly, however, has been the efficiency in which he’s scored. He’s shooting 63 percent from the field, meaning that he’s learned to pick his spots effectively.
This is Bogut, though, and with Bogut, anything on the offensive side of the ball is a luxury. The big Australian is on the court for his all-world defense, and in that regard, he has not disappointed.
Bogut’s 1.8 blocks per game rank him seventh in the league, and his 10.1 rebounds have him just outside the top 10 at 11th in the Association. The stats, however, don’t do his impact justice.
Bogut’s enormous frame has allowed him to put up his best defensive rating in his career, allowing just 96 points per 100 possessions, courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com. While he might not be blocking every shot, he’s definitely changing them.
When you throw in the fantastic screens that have become so vital to the Warriors’ three-point-centered offense, the value of Bogut has never been higher.
1. Draymond Green
Unlike his superstar teammate, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green’s value would be nowhere to be found if we were to go merely by the stat sheet. After all, with averages of just 5.7 points, 1.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game, he could arguably be written off as nothing more than a garbage-time aficionado to the untrained eye.
And that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Green has emerged as the heart and soul of this Warriors team and an infusion of passion and energy that translates to wins and not so much to the stat sheet. While he may not possess the talent of some of the more heralded stars on the team, few can match the intangibles he brings to the table.
His defense has risen to new heights this season and is only getting better by the minute. The 6'7", 230-pounder couples size and agility like few can, a trait that makes him more than capable of defending multiple positions. Whether it be switching on to a point guard or battling down low with a power forward, he never looks out of place.
He’s also shown a tenacity on the court that is rivaled only by his much larger frontcourt mate, Andrew Bogut. After all, it was the combination of the two that resulted in the heated ejection of Blake Griffin on Christmas Day.
Green has transformed himself into an integral part of the Warriors rotation this season and has been instrumental in the dramatic turnaround of the Golden State defense. Any conversation of most improved Warriors this season begins and ends with Green.